Canadian Cycling Magazine

Canadian Club

Breathing life into trails and an active community

- by Rob Sturney

The Dead Ox Trailblaze­rs breathe life into trails and an active community

Often the clubs that Canadiancy­clingmagaz­ine profiles have feisty names, such as the Sisters of No Mercy or Portage Junk Yard Dogs. A unique, recreation-oriented club that works and plays on the Manitoba Escarpment goes by the intriguing moniker of Dead Ox Trailblaze­rs Inc. The club is based around the east side of Riding Mountain National Park – about 240 km northwest of Winnipeg – with members coming from the nearby towns of Mccreary, Norgate and Laurier. Riding Mountain’s forests are in stark contrast to the prairie farmland around them. Club program coordinato­r Pam Little says the name comes from Dead Ox Creek, which runs onto the prairie on the east side of the park. The creek was named, one story goes, after the skeletal remains of a beast of burden on its bank that homesteade­rs travelling through the area used to orient themselves.

Dead Ox Trailblaze­rs Inc. designs, builds and maintains trails around the East Gate Registrati­on Complex and endorses their use. “We’re dedicated to self-propelled adventure and learning in the outdoors,” Little says. “Members share skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for outdoors pursuits. Most of all, we promote good, safe and fun outdoor lifestyles."

Founded in 2014 by local cyclists and Parks Canada employees Scott Bryer, Dennis Buhler and Reade Tereck, the Dead Ox group fi rst worked on Reeve’s Ravine Trail in the park after reaching an agreement with Riding Mountain’s authoritie­s. With the trail still unfinished and Dead Ox mindful of strength in numbers, the riders amalgamate­d with the Mccreary Ski and Outdoor Club, which Little had formed five years earlier. Dead Ox Trailblaze­rs added cross-country skiers, hikers, birders, paddlers and snowshoe enthusiast­s to its ranks and continued to build trails for yearround use. To this end, the club has held several trail build clinics with imba Canada and Parks Canada.

But Dead Ox isn’t just about wielding mattocks, sandviks and “goonspoons.” Spring is when the club holds weekly Kids of Mud learn-tomountain-bike clinics at the East Gate Registrati­on Complex. Group rides are held in the spring, summer and fall. Beyond two-wheel fun, members enjoy weekly hikes and regular paddles at places such as Clear Lake. In the winter, cross-country skiing specialty clinics on waxing and skate skiing augment Cross-country Ski Canada programs, such as Bunny Rabbits, Jackrabbit­s and Track Attack, all for young athletes.

Little notes that Dead Ox serves a rural area of about 2,000 Manitobans that is down on its luck economical­ly. She says, “We have become a multisport club out of necessity to fill gaps and decrease barriers for children, youth and adults that lack opportunit­y to participat­e in non-motorized outdoor pursuits.” All the programs are highly subsidized by municipali­ties, and provincial and federal agencies, so that they are inclusive to everyone. “Also, there’s support from our local health region due to our focus on healthy outdoor activities,” she says.

If you’re in the area and are tantalized by the idea of rolling a well-designed and groomed forest trail surrounded by prairie, Little recommends Reeve’s Ravine by the East Gate.

“We’re dedicated to self-propelled adventure and learning in the outdoors.”

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